Happiness Studies and Legal Policy
Posted: 14 Nov 2010
Date Written: December 2010
Social scientists have conducted numerous empirical and experimental studies of self-reported happiness. This review focuses on two fundamental areas of research in happiness and law, namely alternative measures of happiness and various policies to foster happiness. There are many aspects, concepts, dimensions, and visions of happiness. Empirical findings often depend critically on which particular measure of happiness is analyzed. Happiness studies have applications to national well-being indices; policy evaluation; civil judicial and jury decision making about liability and damages in cases of sexual harassment, employment discrimination, and torts; optimal tax law design; family law; criminal sentencing; legal education; and legal practice. There are decision-making, health, productivity, and psychological benefits to various types of happiness. There are more or less paternalistic happiness interventions, including policies to encourage regular physical exercise, good sleep, and meditation. Hopefully, analysis of these topics offers exemplars of possibilities and limits to utilizing happiness studies in designing legal policy.
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